Odds: Approximately Even
This game is basically a tossup, but NC State is a 1.5 point favorite. Like the Bulls, the Wolfpack is in bad shape and is trying to rebuild. NC State won nine games in 2010, eight in 2011, seven in 2012 and just three in 2013 despite hiring a new coach. Still better than USF did in those years. Anyway, NC State and USF are in about the same boat when it comes to putting the pieces back together.
Offense: 742 yards for USF so far, 959 for NC State.
USF is in a tough quarterback situation right now. Mike White injured his non-throwing arm last week on the first play of the game. Steven Bench stepped in and did an OK job for a backup. White has been practicing this week and may start, but if he can’t then Bench will step in.
The silver lining in White's unfortunate injury is that Taggart has been talking about playing Quinton Flowers, the Bulls’ extremely talented true freshman quarterback that everyone is dying to see on the field. Flowers will probably not start but there is a very good chance that he will play, as has been getting lots of reps in practice this week. Taggart also says the staff had been planning to get him into the first two games already. Just like watching Marlon Mack play against WCU, this game may be your chance to see the debut of another future USF star in Quinton Flowers.
NC State has Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, a guy you may remember from his 2011-12 days at Florida where he backed up Jeff Driskel. Brissett has been excellent since coming to NC State and is described by Taggart as, "accurate," "big," and "comfortable with their offense." He really is good, but the Bulls' defense will be the toughest he has faced since he came in to finish the Gators' 2012 game against South Carolina.
In the backfield, USF’s Marlon Mack is the fourth leading rusher in the FBS. And NC State is ranked 104th in rush defense. In their first two games NC State’s permanent nickel defense got gashed for lots and lots of yards on the ground. Unless they can adjust, maybe play 3-4 instead of nickel, Mack and the other running backs are in for a good game.
Defense: USF has given up 771 yards so far, while NC State has given up 942.
The Wolfpack has one sack in the first two games. I double checked, they have only one. NC State almost never rushes more than four, but there is no telling what they will do this week since their defense has been so bad and USF has a serious run game. The Bulls have seven sacks, which is good enough for 16th in the FBS.
USF is trying out a new 3-4 defense, which seems to be working so far. The Bulls have caused eight turnovers in the first two games, while NC State has caused two.
Special Teams: USF is 80% on field goals and NC State is 40%.
Aside from that fatal punt block against Maryland (and the terrible job by our backup long snapper), USF’s special teams play is really solid. Kloss has hit four of five field goals (the only miss was the 54-yarder), Ciabatti punts an average of 45.4 yards (making him 20th in the FBS), and Dunkley has given the Bulls great field position with 170 yards on kick returns (16th in the FBS).
NC State's kicker has made two of five field goals so far. The Wolfpack's punter, Wil Baumann is good, averaging 45.8 yards per punt so far. Their returner has managed 75 total yards.
The linemen are physically equal.
NC State’s defensive line averages 276 pounds while USF’s offensive line averages 313, counting Hall instead of Jozwiak. NC State’s offensive line averages 310 pounds while USF’s defensive line averages 287. The line of scrimmage will be won based on skill rather than power.
Injuries will affect the Bulls.
With no indication that Andre Davis or Thor Jozwiak are healthy enough to play, USF is probably going into this game without their best receiver, without their starting left guard and with an injured starting quarterback. NC State has no injuries to key players.
The ACC is actually really tough right now. NC State has several games this season in which they hardly stand a chance: FSU, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia Tech.
Russell Wilson played quarterback at NC State, starting almost all of the games from 2008 - 2010, but is better known for his college success at Wisconsin in 2011. Mike Glennon also played quarterback for NC State, starting in 2011 and 2012.